FOSTER is to lose its Red Cross Patient Transport Service at the end of the year.
The move is part of a restructure of the service in four centres in Victoria, including South Gippsland.
Red Cross has confirmed that a review of the service in May this year, along with other reviews, has led to the decision to close the Foster service at the end of 2015.
“Red Cross is still here to service the vulnerable in the South Gippsland Region,” insisted Red Cross Victoria Program Operations Manager Gavin Halge.
“Our Yarram Patient Transport Service will be expanded and renamed the South Gippsland Patient Transport Service and will start to take on essential transport bookings from the Foster area in 2016.
“We are committed to continuing to help people from the Foster district with a free patient transport service for those who can’t attend essential medical appointments by other forms of transport.”
Mr Halge said that requests for a patient transport service would be referred to the two existing non-Red Cross transport services in the area. He was presumably referring to the community car run by South Gippsland Shire Council and the South Gippsland Hospital Community Health Centre car, which is used to transport hospital and community health centre clients (and staff) to appointments and programs arranged by the hospital and community health centre.
“This is in addition to expanding and closely monitoring our coverage of Foster’s nearest Red Cross patient transport service, which is located at Yarram,” said Mr Halge.
“We are consulting carefully to ensure all Foster and surrounding referring agencies are informed to contact the Patient Transport Yarram (South Gippsland) Service, for bookings after the end of year period.
“While the community of Foster will continue to be serviced, this decision unfortunately means that the remaining volunteer drivers will no longer be able to fill their volunteer roles in Foster. All Foster volunteer driver roles will therefore end around the end of the year.”
Steve and Nola Mills are two of Foster’s Red Cross car drivers, part of a pool of approximately a dozen volunteers. They have been volunteering their services as drivers for about 15 years and are sad to see the service leave Foster. “I understand there has been a rationalisation of services,” said Mr Mills. He hopes that patients will not be inconvenienced in any way and will continue to be able to make use of what is a much-appreciated service.
“This decision is no way reflects on the outstanding work of our Foster volunteer drivers. Their outstanding commitment and service have made such a positive impact for many years to those patients they transported,” said Mr Halge.
“All volunteer drivers have been invited to volunteer for the Yarram service. In recognition of the additional travel they will be reimbursed for their travel expenses so they will have no out-of-pocket costs at all.”
Red Cross has promised it will continue to make the transition as seamless as possible to reduce disruption to clients.